In final hours, lobbying from both sides of zoo move looks like a real political fight
BATON ROUGE – Like politicians rushing to get voters to the polls ahead of a major election, those for and against a plan to move the zoo are unleashing a flurry of political firestorms in the last 24 hours before BREC commissioners make their controversial decision.
A “Save Santa Maria” website and social media account published Wednesday, is arguing against the move – Santa Maria, the luxury golf course community off Perkins Road would overlook the new zoo.
For months, BREC has been pushing its plan to move the zoo from North Baton Rouge to the fairgrounds. BREC commissioners, the nine member governing body of the public parks system, are scheduled to vote on the matter Thursday evening.
At least two members of the metro council sent emails this week, urging commissioners to vote against the move.
Possibly the most vocal advocate against a move, Councilwoman Chauna Banks, got additional support in a scathing email written by her colleague, Councilman Trae Welch.
“Every Mayor in this parish has asked you not to move this Zoo. Council members who appointed you to represent them are being purposefully excluded from the conversation. Each Commission member, based on the exclusion alone, should vote No on the Zoo move,” he wrote in a Wednesday morning email obtained by WBRZ.
“I’ll say one last thing if every Mayor, who represents and gets elected from the vast majority of the Parish has asked you not to move the Zoo, and you still vote to move the Zoo, whose interests are you representing? There has been nothing in this Parish more unifying in recent memory for the Parish as a whole than opposition to the Zoo being moved.”
Welch's email comes a day after the mayors of Baton Rouge, Zachary, Central and Baker held a news conference denouncing plans to move the zoo.
Also Wednesday, BREC sent out a rebuttal. A parks spokesperson argued a political game is being played.
“Yesterday’s news conference held at Greenwood Community Park regarding BREC’s proposal for a more visible and sustainable location for the Baton Rouge Zoo included several incorrect statements,” BREC said in a prepared statement.
“The decision to locate the Baton Rouge Zoo in its current location was based on a land donation and politics, not by following the criteria for success that define successful zoos today and are based on objective zoo industry standards. If our Zoo is to thrive, we must attract private donations and make a wise business decision to ensure it is in the most highly visible location, near a major highway or interstate, near like attractions and closer to its core audience,” BREC said.
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